Manhattan studio maintains recorded gems of yore

Posted on: October 1, 2009

In Thursday’s (10/1) New York Times, Alan Feuer describes the scene inside a West 44th Street music studio in Manhattan. “A musical archivist removed from its case the sole extant copy of some 1941 session takes of Billie Holiday crooning ‘All of Me.’ … Five days a week, musical journeys much like that one occur inside this studio, where a small team from Sony Music Entertainment performs the divine digital act of preserving the company’s archives.” The collection “is a staggering cache of 1.5 million items—perhaps the world’s best playlist—that Sony has accrued over the years by acquiring such legendary labels as Columbia Records and RCA Victor. … The toolbox is extensive: a tackle box of needles, numerous Studer tape decks, a huge device that plays old steel recordings and goes by the name ‘the Tank.’ There is also what is universally known as ‘the World’s Most Expensive Turntable’—an 800-pound, $65,000, granite-based, pneumatic Rockport Technologies special. … With overhead so high, it makes a certain sense that the studio—while mainly dedicated to the archivist’s art—must also respond to the pressures of the market. … So, for instance, if Ken Burns does a PBS documentary on jazz, the team is there to dig up old Fats Waller numbers; if a Toscanini bio-pic is in the works, it will find his music, too.”

Posted October 1, 2009